How I Tamed Chaos at Work and You Can Too

I started as a sole practitioner about 15 years ago.  Managing was pretty simple – look in the mirror and tell myself what to do.  Simple, but not always easy when I was in procrastination mode.

Things have changed since then – especially in the last three years.  There are ten of us now at “Spack Enterprise” and I expect we’ll double that in a few years.  We’ve grown to the point where we can’t fly by the seat of our pants and expect to perform at the level we guarantee.

Through the books Scaling Up and Traction, I’ve learned to tame chaos with dashboards and a meeting rhythm.  For the full how/why on these topics, please read them.  They’re very meaty and I believe businesses and public agencies alike can take away a lot of good nuggets from them.

Meeting Rhythm

  1. Connecting with Team Daily. We drop everything at 2:07 p.m. and have a quick five minute huddle every day. Folks working in the field or from home get dialed in as a conference call (iPhones and Jabra Speaker work great).  Everyone gets about 30 seconds to describe what they need to get done in the next 24 hours and we make quick adjustments if people need help.  Why 2:07? it’s memorable, “the 207” rolls off the tongue, and it’s much easier to be on time with a weird but precise time.  We picked 2:07 p.m. as the time that works best for us (some folks roll in at 10:00 a.m., some leave at 3:30 p.m. and we also like to setup cameras/tubes in the morning when there’s less traffic).  We try hard to avoid external meetings during the mid-afternoon.  (We actually work at avoiding meetings in general.)
  2. Weekly Project Process Updates. We have a thirty minute 207 on Tuesdays to go over our weekly dashboard, check in on long-term projects to confirm they’re on track (move to “significant issues” if off track), and bring up/discuss/solve other significant issues. We also cover “client headlines” to go over things that are either great or terrible as well as a personal + work highlight for each person.  The headlines and highlights build team unity and general awareness.  The dashboard/issues portion helps us manage scientifically (by metrics instead of by gut) and make adjustments as needed.
  3. First Tuesday 207 of the month. Standard 207 plus ten minutes to go over financial goals/results of the past month plus goals for the next month.
  4. Quarterly. Go to a restaurant for a couple of hours for an off-site meeting to discuss big projects and make adjustments. We basically “rent” a conference room with their staff keeping our iced tea/coffee/lemonade full.  Then we enjoy lunch together.  Key to this is telling our server what we’re doing and that we’ll be doubling their tip for good service.
  5. January each year. Full day off-site meeting to review the past year, adjust our 3-5 year goals, discuss opportunities/threats, and develop the quarter by quarter plan for the upcoming year.
  6. Key to all of these meetings. NO CELL PHONES unless calling in to the 207.
  7. Set Goals. A year and a half ago we started this process by developing our vision (Improve Transportation Globally), our audacious goal (10,000 customers by 2025) and 3-5-year plan.

Right now, these meetings involve everyone in the company.  However, as we add more employees the above rhythm will change and may more department focused daily and weekly meetings and larger group meetings with everyone each month or quarter. We also have subset quick meetings each week to cover sales activities and consulting/field work workload planning (we’re evolving that dashboard and Bryant Ficek will share that in a month or two) with the folks who are tied to those activities.

Dashboards

We have a matrix of key indicators with goals that we keep track of (i.e. number of days in advance of deadline that projects are delivered, LinkedIn connections made, cash in bank, receivables).  Everyone has at least one number they’re responsible for.  The spreadsheet highlights when a target was blown.  The whole quarter is laid out with the items in rows and weeks in columns.  We use formulas to highlight cells in which the weekly goal was not met.  This allows us to see trends in the numbers and focus the weekly 207 on trends that are going the wrong way.

Every company’s dashboard should be unique and proprietary.  Therefore, I encourage you to go to the books to see examples; I’m going to skip sharing ours.

The dashboards combined with our meeting rhythm helps us to efficiently focus on the important tasks and trends.  This has made all of the difference for us being able to manage our 50%+ annual growth the last few years.  More importantly, these tools will allow me to manage our future business growth to achieve our vision and audacious goal.

What management methods do you use to help keep employees engaged and your work organized? I would love to hear about what others find effective in their offices.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *